Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Beginning of the Reparations Campaign (#rahmrepnow)

In the fall of 2013, an opportunity presented itself to file the reparations ordinance before Chicago's City Council. On September 11th, the Council voted to approve a $12.3 million settlement for Ronald Kitchen and Marvin Reeves, both of whom were tortured, wrongfully convicted, and spent twenty-one years in prison for a quintuple murder they did not commit. Shortly after the vote, Fran Spielman of the Chicago Sun-Times asked Mayor Emanuel whether the settlement served as an apology for the torture cases. Mayor Emanuel acknowledged that the cases were a "dark" chapter and a "stain on the City's reputation" but said that he wanted to build a city for the future. He summarized his sentiments by saying "I am sorry this happened. Let us all now move on."

Mayor Emanuel's "apology" infuriated many of the torture survivors and other members of CTJM who felt it was half-hearted, insincere, and dismissive. It motivated us to file the reparations ordinance before the City Council to let Mayor Emanuel and the city know that we could not and would not move on, and that we would continue to demand that the City of Chicago take responsibility and make amends for the enormous, on-going harm caused in the Burge torture cases.

When we filed the ordinance, many of us never thought in our wildest dreamS it would pass. Although we had little experience with City Council politics, we educated ourselves on how to reach out to and gain aldermanic support for the ordinance. While there were many setbacks along the way, over time, our call for justice for the survivors of police torture gained powerful allies, including Amnesty International, USA, which joined the campaign in the spring of 2014. By September 2014, we were able to secure the public endorsement of twenty-six aldermen and women, only one vote shy to make the bill into law. We were committed to making the reparations ordinance an issue in the upcoming local elections.

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